For many years as a churchgoing Christian, I struggled with the concept of sin. Each week before I took Holy Communion, I would resolve that this time I would not sin afterward. Or at least I would not sin as soon as I had the last time. But sometimes before I even got outside the church I would have broken my resolution by some thought or word.
It wasn't that I was leading a wildly immoral life. Outwardly, I was doing a decent job of obeying the Ten Commandments. The problem was that inwardly I was filled with anger, fear, and frustration about many things in my life. I was happy to help others, but afraid to love anyone. Much as I wanted to follow the example of Christ Jesus in being spiritually minded, I didn't know how. But the desire to understand Jesus' teachings did spur me to study the Bible.
I had been taught that sin is literally part of our natural condition and is inescapable. The Bible, on the other hand, made clear that while Jesus didn't approve of sin, his ministry was not full of condemnation. In fact, John's Gospel says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (3:16). So I felt hopeful but also confused.
It was about this time that I became acquainted with Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. This book's statements about sin and its perspective on the Bible startled me. It seemed to be saying that we are not condemned to lives of sin. It asserted that the Bible's main declaration is that we are spiritual and Godlike. At first this was shocking. How could I, an experienced sinner, possibly be this perfect offspring of God?
Then I came across this statement in the book of Matthew: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (5:48). This sounded a lot like what I was reading in Science and Health. One passage in it was particularly helpful: "Mortals think wickedly; consequently they are wicked. They think sickly thoughts, and so become sick. If sin makes sinners, Truth and Love alone can unmake them" (p. 270). From this, I began to see that the conviction that I was a mortal sinner had made sin seem a lot more natural to me than goodness. What I was thinking about myself or others was determining how I behaved. Gradually I realized that anger and frustration were not the outcome of God's work. It followed that if I wanted to be good, I needed to affirm that I was good by reason of being God's offspring -- the child of Truth and Love. That made sin seem less formidable because I was seeing that it really wasn't part of me.
Sin truly has no part in anything God created. Science and Health explains, "God fashions all things, after His own likeness. Life is reflected in existence, Truth in truthfulness, God in goodness, which impart their own peace and permanence. Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light" (p. 516). These, then, are some of the qualities that describe our essence as God's children -- truthfulness, goodness, unselfishness. Haven't you expressed these qualities at times?
Science and Health explains completely the Science of Christ, or Christian Science, which Mrs. Eddy discovered in 1866. Among the spiritual facts it reveals is this: we can't express ourselves separately from God or in sinful ways that are unlike Him.
With any shortcoming, we have a way to escape; it's by getting a better understanding of God. We understand our own distinct nature when we understand Him. The clearer we are on this subject, the more we discern that good is actually part of us, while sin really isn't. That's when sin begins to lose both its allure and its power.
There is a huge difference between my old self-image and the "me" I'm learning about through studying the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health. Not only does it give hope and peace to anyone; it also shows us clearly how to find genuine freedom.
*Healing through prayer is explored in more detail in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel.